Weird History
629 voters

Historical Royals With The Most Children

December 15, 2020 3.2k votes 629 voters 107.1k views10 items

List RulesVote up the historical rulers with extraordinary amounts of offspring.

If you're an absolute ruler, you want to make absolutely certain that the line of succession is crystal clear. That way, you're not constantly checking over your shoulder for scheming uncles, traitorous siblings, or that distant cousin with the good hair and better connections. Unfortunately, not every monarch or empress is able to produce an official heir. 

However, for every king or queen that leaves the throne childless, there's some other royal figure who can't turn a corner without producing offspring - legitimate or otherwise. Read on to discover which king fathered the most children and what queen had the most babies. Check out the following leaders who had the most kids, and vote up the ones that seem a bit excessive.

  • Photo: MrEveris / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

    Genghis Khan (1162-1227 AD) rose from the obscurity of the Mongolian steppe to become one of the most successful, if brutal, conquerors in world history. In 2003, a genetics study revealed that roughly 0.5% of the male population - on Earth - carry a Y chromosome passed down from one Mongolian individual who lived about 1,000 years ago. This man is believed to be Genghis Khan.

    During the khan's aggressive expansion of territory, women from conquered villages would be added to his harem. It is estimated that Genghis Khan may have fathered more than 1,000 children in his lifetime. 

    As Discover Magazine explains, "~10% of the men who reside within the borders of the Mongol Empire as it was at the death of Genghis Khan may carry his Y chromosome, and so ~0.5% of men in the world, about 16 million individuals alive today, do so."

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  • Photo: Matthew Paris / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Henry I (c. 1068-1135 AD) earns the dubious distinction of siring "more illegitimate children than any other English King." It is unknown exactly how many children Henry produced with his various partners, but most sources place the number around 24. This is in addition to the two legitimate children he had with his first wife, Matilda of Scotland.

    Henry was not secretive about his affairs, and many of the children born from these unions were used to achieve his political ends. As Royal Central explains, "Rather than keeping his illegitimate children out of public life, he found advantageous marriages for them and elevated many of the sons to important positions."

    One scholarly journal offers this hot take on Henry's familial maneuvering:

    The use of illegitimate children to further political designs was not unusual among medieval kings, but the number of Henry I of England’s offspring was remarkable, even by contemporary standards.

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  • Photo: John Michael Wright / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
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    Charles II Had Zero Official Heirs And At Least 14 Illegitimate Children

    As far as royal nicknames go, you can do a lot worse than the "Merry Monarch." That was the handle of Charles II (1630-1685 AD), who was noted for being flamboyant, witty, and fun. And considering he'd survived not only exile, but also the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London, he probably figured he deserved it.

    Charles had no children with his wife, Catherine of Braganza, but sired at least 14 illegitimate offspring with more than a dozen mistresses. (The total number of his illegitimate offspring may be as high as 17, or even higher.) 

    Charles cared for both his mistresses and children by doling out cushy jobs and noble titles. According to the New York Times,

    Charles, like most monarchs, made sure his illegitimate offspring were taken care of, with titles and with soft jobs. A book on the kings and queens of England, published 10 years ago, contained this titillating observation: "Of 26 dukes in England today, five are direct descendants on the wrong side of the blanket of Charles II."

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  • Photo: Martin van Meytens / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
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    Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa Gave Birth To 16 Children

    Maria Theresa (1717-1780 AD) held some impressive titles throughout her royal career: archduchess of Austria and queen of Hungary and Bohemia, as well as wife and empress of the Holy Roman emperor Francis I. Britannica describes her as "a key figure in the power politics of 18th-century Europe," "one of the most capable [Habsburg] rulers," and “the most human of the Habsburgs.”

    According to The World of the Habsburgs, the empress gave birth to 16 children (11 daughters, five sons), but only 10 survived into their adult years.

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